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Three underclassmen will start this year for Memorial High

The Manchester Memorial High School boys basketball squad will take the floor in its season opener Friday night, Dec. 14, with three underclassmen in its starting five.

Joining returners Tom Akot and Zoubel Iradukunda will be sophomores Kabongo Ngalakulondi and Omaru Kante, and freshman Tshief Ngalakulondi.

“We’re pretty young,” head coach John Quirk said. “We’ve got a sophomore point guard, we’re got a freshman that’s starting.”

Quirk returns to coach the boys team for the first time after nine years coaching the Memorial girls.

Depsite the youth throughout his roster, Quirk said his squad has tremendous potential, both to win games and to improve as the season moves along.

But they have a tough task to start the winter. Memorial starts the season with a host of road games.

“Six out of our first nine games are away, and six out of our last nine games are home,” Quirk said. “I think being a young team, we have to hopefully keep our heads above water for those first nine games and then try to make haste when the sun shines.”

With the young players, Memorial will be relying heavily on Akot and Iradukunda for veteran leadership. Akot brings a post presence, while Iradukunda is one of several slashers on the team.

Quirk said the Crusaders will rely on those slasher-types players because they lack an outside shooting threat.

“They’re all slasher, driver types,” he said. “I don’t think we have a real pure three-point shooter. Our offense is going to be geared to get to the rim, one way or the other.”

The team has also been working parts of its defensive scheme, which Quirk said is a key aspect in need of improvement.

“We really have to improve our interior defense,” he said. “We have to shut down the lane a lot better, that’s one thing that I’ve seen during the scrimmages. We have to make other teams pull up before they get to the rim.”

With a handful of scrimmages under their belt, Quirk said his players have shown promise. He said it would be “a disaster” if they failed to make the postseason.

“We’ve won most of the scrimmages, I just think that we’re so young, we could be a good team by the end of the year,” he said. “I just hope that we improve and are playing our best basketball by the end of the year. We have a lot of room for improvement, particularly on defense.”

Memorial also has a solid set of reserves, Quirk said. The talent on his team leads him to believe the chief obstacles in the way of success will be youth and inexperience.

“I like our bench,” said Quirk. “We’ve got a nice sixth man in Joel Mayola.”

The test for Quirk’s Crusaders begin Friday at Londonderry. For him, the issue this winter won’t be who they go up against, it’s how they play.

“I don’t think it matters that much who we play, I think we’re going to be very competitive against just about everyone,” he said. “The team that’s going to beat us the most is going to be us if we get into a pattern of making those mistakes, that a young team might.”

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